The alternatives you noted in your article to the deal worked out between the teachers union and the San Diego Unified School District involved either a “flat pay cut” for teachers or a reduction of their health benefits. In other words, the alternatives noted both involved teacher sacrifice, as though the current deal does not also involve teacher pain. The union, according to President Bill Freeman, recognized that that was not a legitimate way to approach the bad situation, opting for a “shared pain” strategy. It seems there are other alternatives, however, apart from the ones mentioned in your article. One might be a lawsuit brought against the state, alleging it is not meeting its constitutional duty to provide an adequate, free public education. One must wonder when that duty is violated. Perhaps the American Civil Liberties Union will file a lawsuit, ultimately, challenging the diminishing school years and the reduction in school funding and thus personnel.
Another alternative might be to take a second look at Proposition 13, which seems to have, as Gov. Jerry Brown in his first iteration predicted, hurt public education in California, including at the college and university levels. It also appears that Prop. 13 is somewhat anti-democratic in its effect, as it tends to give an anti-tax minority a veto power on tax increases, even if they are supported by a majority of voters in California. It does seem that the Republican right wants, on the one hand, a better educational experience for all students, advocating, as it does, for increased scrutiny and accountability of teachers and reduced tenure protections, yet, on the other hand, is not willing to pay for that experience. Is not California now towards the bottom of public spending per student? How does that square with the push, for instance, for increased scrutiny and accountability of teachers? How would we reward the better performing teachers — by not laying them off but by reducing further their salaries and their benefits? That does not seem consistent with rewarding them for their excellence. It does also seem that any college students coming through the pipeline now will have to take a long look at becoming a teacher; I suspect we are doing lasting damage to the teacher corps, as why would a young student want to go in the profession now? It might be fruitful for you to explore the effects of Proposition 13 on public education in California, and also what young students think about the teaching profession, in light of what has gone on in the state in the last several years. I for one would not want to teach for a living.
James Badger lives in South Park.
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